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Hunger game: Giants starving for a win over Eagles

James Bradberry of the New York Giants intercepts

James Bradberry of the New York Giants intercepts a pass intended for John Hightower of the Eagles in the end zone during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 22 in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images/Mitchell Leff

Patrick Graham just sat there.

The game against the Eagles had ended and the Giants’ sideline began to clear. Some players headed to the locker room, others onto the field to chat up and congratulate their opponents.

The defensive coordinator of the team that had just blown an 11-point lead in the final 4:38 simply plopped down on the bench and put his head in his hands.

And there he remained. Alone. For a long time.

"I failed them," Graham said this past week, reflecting on his thoughts during that period of stunned disbelief and pain. "If I’m being honest with you, I was just disappointed in letting them down personally. In that moment of honesty, that’s where I was at."

There was a lot of that, a lot of players and coaches who could have taken the blame for that 22-21 loss. And many of them did. Evan Engram dropped a pass that would have sealed the win. James Bradberry and Logan Ryan were flagged for costly penalties. Jabrill Peppers gave up the go-ahead touchdown in man coverage.

That wasn’t a game the Giants could chalk up to their youth or holes on their roster. It was a loss that came at the hands of the players who are supposed to be leading them to wins, not costing them games.

On Sunday, the Giants will get a chance to avenge that. If they do, it will create an entirely new narrative for the remainder of the season. With a win, they would enter their bye week with three victories, all in the division, and no one in the division would have more wins than they do. The Giants would be contenders for the NFC East title.

"Obviously, our division is in play," Ryan said. "Who knows? We don’t even know how many playoff teams there are going to be this year. We’re just taking it one game at a time."

This is that one game.

It comes against a team that has bewildered the Giants for some time. The Eagles have won eight straight against the Giants and 12 of the past 13 meetings.

"We need to win," said Engram, a four-year veteran who has never beaten the Eagles. "We’ve been on the losing end a lot of times recently. We have an opportunity to change that this Sunday. That’s what we’re really focused on. We’re definitely really motivated to be on the winning end this time."

While the streak is long for the Giants, not everyone has had a hand in it.

"Anything like this that comes up as we’ve had a streak where we’ve beaten a team six games in a row, we’ve lost however many games in a row, the first part of that equation is many of the players and coaches weren’t involved in that, the success or the adversity," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. "That’s one way to look at it."

Garrett added a second perspective, too. He said the Giants have to channel the same mentality that allows them to put bad plays behind them and move on to the next one.

"Hey, it’s like a new down, it’s like a new play," he said. "Whatever we did before, good, bad or indifferent, is really irrelevant to what’s going to happen right now. You try to lock in and prepare that way for every situation you’re in, and this week will be no different."

The Giants enter this game with an attitude that is much different from the way they left their last meeting with the Eagles. They are coming off a win over Washington in which they believe they fixed the most glaring failure of their defense, the ability to stop teams in the closing minutes of halves. They did that so well last week that they secured three turnovers at the end of the two halves.

"The end of the game is winning time," Ryan said. "Most games aren’t blowouts, so it’s going to come down to those last possessions at the end of the game as we watch football to see who is going to win and who’s going to lose it. I remember Magic Johnson saying the last five minutes of the fourth quarter is his time, it’s winning time."

The Giants want to make sure it is their time, too.

"We need wins," Graham said. "That’s what we do this for. If you’re hungry for something as a football player, as a competitor, as a coach, you’re hungry for wins. And when I say hungry, I’m talking about a hunger like ‘I need to eat.’ Yeah, I want to win."

If they can do it on Sunday against the Eagles, it could be a season-defining moment.

If not, it may be back to the bench for more wallowing, this time to mourn not just a game but a season.

New York Sports